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Ethics of Using Open Wireless Home Networks

The use of 'open' home Wi-Fi networks still represents a gray area that divides consumers' opinions. According to a recent JupiterResearch consumer survey, 26 percent of online users are not sure how they feel about the use of these networks, while 12 percent say it is not okay for people to take advantage of such situations.

However, attitudes shift with age. Older online users are more likely to be unsure about the ethics of using open home networks, while young Internet users � often students � are significantly more likely to approve of and use such networks.

Twenty-three percent of online users ages 18 to 24 feel that unprotected networks should be considered 'free' hotspots, compared with only eight percent of overall online users. Based on this general view, users ages 18 to 24 are also more likely to use neighbors' networks and open networks while traveling.

In fact, five percent of users in this age group utilize open networks as their only Internet connection. They are, however, more willing to share their own connections: 14 percent of online users ages 18 to 24 don't mind if other people log on to their Wi-Fi, compared with four percent of overall online users.

Currently, the majority of Wi-Fi network owners are aware of the possibility of "freeloading" and have deployed security. Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) has made security setup somewhat easier, and consumers can make a conscious choice to either lock their network or willingly leave it open for others to use.

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